'Against the Grain': Robinson Banking on Deercroft Revival
Ted Robinson is a few minutes late for the interview. He’s living what he preaches — customer service.
It’s already above 90 degrees at 10 a.m., but Robinson is hard at work on the practice range at Deercroft Golf Club, giving a lesson to an eager and grateful Jesse Peters, who has already seen improvement in his swing.
That brings a smile to Robinson, the 48-year-old career club professional who is staking his future on the success of the course located a few miles from Aberdeen on U.S. 15-501.
“I had been looking for a golf course like this for a while,” he said. “I found Deercroft on the Internet and it sounded interesting, so I came down to look at it.”
That look resulted in a 10-year lease from owners Carl Meares and Rod Sanders. And for members it represents a new enthusiasm and hope for improvements in the clubhouse and on the golf course.
“One of my goals had been to get ownership of a course,” Robinson said, “and my first impression here was a good one. I really liked the layout of the course and the community here. There are a lot of really nice, well-maintained homes, and there’s a beautiful lake for boating and fishing.
“I also liked that it’s located only 20 miles from Pinehurst. That intrigued me. In fact, had it not been for that, I probably wouldn’t have ventured into it.”
Deercroft has always had the reputation of being an excellent course to play, but has struggled financially for several years. Money to purchase new equipment and provide upkeep for facilities was scarce.
“I could see that the course needed a lot of TLC and a lot of money,’ Robinson said, “but I felt I could do something with it. We don’t have unlimited funds, of course, but we’re prepared for the long haul. We want to succeed and we’re willing to work hard to that end. I’m investing everything I have into it.
“I had a good job (head professional at Hershey’s Mill Golf Club in the Philadelphia suburbs), but I’m 48 years old, and if I was going to realize my dream, I had to make the move. If we don’t succeed, I’m caught between a rock and hard place.
“I want to make this place special — make it my life — and retire here. I love all golf offers.”
One of the first things Robinson did was hire Josh Patterson as course superintendent. The 27-year-old Patterson had been an intern at the Country Club of North Carolina and an assistant superintendent at Foxfire Resort.
“The equipment was at a bad stage,” Robinson said. “I asked Josh to check it out and to prioritize what we needed. We’re getting basically what he asked for. We’ve bought some equipment from The Pit (which closed a few months ago). We’re being as cost effective as we can.”
One priority Robinson saw was the need for new golf carts. “We’ve got a new fleet of carts coming in August,” he said. “That was one of the complaints we’ve addressed.”
While golf courses all over the country are struggling to survive, Robinson feels he can make Deercroft a success.
“I know it’s going against the grain,” he said, “but I look at it as an opportunity. Some other courses are shutting down or losing players, and we’re hoping to gain some of those.”
If things do prosper at Deercroft, Robinson is going to give credit to the members,
“The membership here has been so supportive of what we’re trying to do,” he said. “A lot of them are doing what they can to help, including volunteering to do some landscaping and painting. People are excited at seeing our commitment and want to help us. They sense things are getting better.”
If commitment is the key, Robinson sees success ahead.
“My biggest thing is customer service,” he said. “We’re in the people business and we’re going to do everything we can to make them happy.
“I came here by myself and had to assemble a staff from scratch. There have been a lot of headaches, but it’s only going to get better. I can’t let my frustrations be seen; I have to be upbeat. It’s a challenge, but you have to look at the big picture.
“For the first month, it was one step forward and three back, but now it’s one step forward and a half-step back. That’s progress.
“We’re going to try to reach out to the public with clinics, junior camps and tournaments. One of our challenges is to get out, be seen and heard. I don’t want people to just see fliers.”
Robinson admits that he’s running hard in an effort to make some early strides.
“The fact that I have my own course is helping me keep going,” he said. “There’s an adrenaline rush. I know that at some point I’ll have to pull back a little, but we’re holding out pretty well so far.
“We and the members are excited because we can see some positive results already. But there’s a long road ahead and we have to keep improving. At least we’re getting positive feedback.”
Jesse Peters echoes that as he practices the swing that he’s been working on. “I’ve been a member here for nine years,” he said, “and we’re very happy and excited with what we see happening.”
Contact Howard Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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